Penny, Martinez exchange heated words

Penny, Martinez exchange heated words

DETROIT -- If Tigers starter Brad Penny thought everything was working against him in a rough start against the Angels on Thursday afternoon, he might have included his catcher on the list. Penny and All-Star Victor Martinez became an unwanted highlight when they argued with each other near the mound during the fourth inning, shortly before Penny left with his worst statistical outing in a Detroit uniform.

It was a bizarre scene for Penny, who had raved early in the season about working with Martinez behind the plate. But it was also a reflection of just how rough Penny's outing was. Penny said the issue was related to Penny coming set when Martinez was giving signs.

The exchange occurred after Penny gave up a single, triple and double to the bottom of the Halos' order to lead off the fourth inning. After Peter Bourjos' double extended the Angels' lead to 5-2, Martinez got behind the plate for the first pitch to Angels catcher Jeff Mathis. But after signaling for a set of signs twice to Penny, he got up and made a mound visit to talk with a clearly flustered Penny, yelling in his direction.

Martinez continued to the mound and answered back as fans at Comerica Park started to boo. Penny shouted and gestured again before pitching coach Jeff Jones emerged from the dugout for an unplanned visit to calm everyone down. It did not calm the Angels' attack, which tacked on another run with an Erick Aybar single following a sacrifice bunt.

"It had nothing to do with pitch selection or anything like that," Penny said. "With a runner on second, I like to come set taking signs. That way the hitter can't look at second base and anything there. I've pitched my whole career that way, and he didn't want me to do it. I know there's no other way for me. I guess it's a habit. It's natural.

"I've done it my whole career. It's not that big of a deal. Me and Victor have been friends for a while now, and that happens when you're competing."

Martinez wouldn't answer any questions on the topic.

The bunt hit from Aybar brought out hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, who became acting manager for the day after Jim Leyland was ejected an inning earlier. McClendon hadn't yet arrived at the mound to make his pitching change when Penny stepped off the mound and handed him the ball. The boos continued for Penny on his way to the dugout.

Martinez has been the catcher for eight of Penny's 21 starts this season. In fact, Martinez has caught Penny more than any other Tigers starter this season, though Thursday was the first time for the pairing since June 26. Statistically, the pairing had worked well until Thursday, with an ERA nearly two full runs lower than what Penny has hosted in 13 starts with Alex Avila behind the plate.

Beyond Martinez's status as Detroit's second catcher, however, is his leadership role on the team, a responsibility he took on almost as soon as he signed with the club as a free agent last offseason. His veteran status and All-Star career earned him instant respect from his new teammates, including Penny, who worked with him for a stretch in Boston when they were both with the Red Sox in 2009.

"It's not that he wasn't used to catching me," Penny said. "That had nothing to do with pitch selection or how I pitched today. It was totally the complete opposite of that. It was just when I was coming set taking signs."